Nature and wildlife photographers, as a group, almost universally see their work as an effort to promote protection, conservation, preservation, and even the repair of the wild spaces and natural beauty around us. It is difficult to visit the places we've seen, observe the flora and fauna, and watch the natural phenomena and not be awed and fascinated by the beauty of our natural world and the diversity of its wildlife, geology, and weather and the relationships between them.
There's more to nature than beauty, of course. When the trees are gone, when the polar ice has melted, when water is too polluted to drink, when the air is toxic, we'll be gone too.
Unfortunately, there are many factors working against the environment. It is necessary to take a stand against them if we expect future generations (or even our own!) to be able to enjoy a healthy environment and the beauty and diversity nature can offer.
The Current Administration
The administration of George W. Bush is the most environmentally hostile regime ever to inhabit Washington. The chilling concept of "market-based solutions", a phrase used by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman in a recent NPR interview, includes overturning or relaxing many of the former administration's environmental policies, and could potentially result in new or increased logging, drilling, and mining in our national forests and other protected areas. A notable example of this is the ill-conceived and highly publicized plan to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
So Many Of Us
The shear number of us is certainly another factor. More people results in increased consumption. This includes not only packaged items that result in huge volumes of trash moving into landfills and other areas, but also increased use of vehicles, increasing fuel consumption and the resulting pollution. Mass transit is poorly received in the U.S. We prefer to use our own cars or trucks, even though we rarely have more than one or two people aboard.
The sewage treatment facilities of most major cities run dangerously close to their capacities, and these are invariably designed and located to overflow into our lakes, rivers, and streams when a problems arise. Is building more an appropriate solution?
The next time you see a major league baseball game, attended by perhaps 42,000 people, consider this: There are 84,000 shoes and tens of thousands of shirts, wallets, keys, belts, radios, and eyeglasses in those stands. If a third of those attending drove cars to the game, there are 70,000 tires, nearly 60,000 quarts of motor oil, and perhaps 150,000 gallons of gasoline in the parking lots. All produced from some raw material, and then packaged, shipped, etc. at some cost to the environment. On any given summer day in the U.S. and Canada there are 14 games played. Do the math. There are so many of us.
Production and Packaging
Everything we consume, whether goods or services, must be manufactured, grown, fertilized, irrigated, raised, packaged, shipped, heated, cooled, chemically preserved, prepared, or some combination of these resource-consuming and pollution-generating operations. The majority of space in our landfills is occupied by the discarded materials in which other products were packaged. Runoff from over-fertilized fields enters lakes, rivers, and streams, causing mutations in their wildlife, depletion of oxygen in the water, and other effects. Refrigerants from heating and cooling systems for buildings, vehicles, and food are released into the atmosphere causing damage to the ozone layer, destroying its ability to protect all life from the sun.
What You Can Do to Help
There are many organizations, some global, some national, and some local, that would be delighted to hear from you and accept volunteer help or donations of goods or funds. You can contact your local and national representatives - this is easy to do and frequently quite effective.
Buy responsibly. You can purchase goods and services from businesses that promote environmental awareness and stewardship. Often these concerns donate a percentage of their incomes or revenues to these causes. You can encourage companies to produce products with minimum packaging by paying attention to what you buy. Often you can find nearly identical products packaged in different ways; simply purchase what comes in the most environmentally-friendly wrapper. Remember also that many of the products themselves will eventually be discarded. Before making a purchase, check that the materials used can be recycled when the product reaches the end of its useful life. Check also that the products are made, at least partly, from recycled materials.
Please see our links page. Many of the links there will take you to the Web sites of businesses, organizations, and publications that can provide a great deal of information on this topic. There are also links to our representatives in Washington. Please visit some of these sites to learn more.
19 September, 2001.